Duke professor lands $500,000 for development of thermally managed wearable devices

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DURHAM- Po-Chun Hsu, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University, has received a prestigious Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation. The award supports outstanding early-career faculty in building a foundation for a lifelong research agenda.

Over the next five years, the $500,000 prize will support Hsu’s innovative work in developing a wearable device that manages heat around the human body without requiring an active power supply to maintain heating/cooling mode.

Hsu’s goal is to meet the human need for thermal homeostasis – or maintaining core body temperature within a specific range, as required by all warm-blooded mammals – while reducing the enormous amount of heat consumption. energy and carbon emissions associated with indoor temperature control.

According to the US Department of Energy and other sources, building heating and cooling management accounts for approximately 15% of global energy consumption and approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Hsu is passionate about reducing these levels of energy consumption and their effects on the environment.

“My goal is to solve the long-standing trade-off between power consumption and functionality of portable thermoregulation devices by providing a new approach to controlling heat transfer, rather than actively supplying power, which will reduce power consumption considerably,” Hsu said.

His approach for the device supported by this award involves a combination of materials science, thermal science, sustainability and photonic engineering. The design uses a metamaterial – an engineered composite structured to control and manipulate light waves – to emit heat. By pairing the metamaterial with a polymer that electrochemically alters its property, Hsu will tune the device to handle the heat that naturally radiates from the human body in the mid-infrared wavelength range, thereby optimally regulating the balance. body heat. Mid-infrared wavelengths lie between the spectrum of visible light and microwaves.

“The electrochemical setting is non-volatile and consumes no energy to maintain the heating/cooling mode, which is a remarkable advantage for long-term daily use,” Hsu said.

To ensure the extensibility, breathability, and morphing of the dynamic 3D metasurface for future large-scale production, Hsu will use kirigami cuts, which are akin to origami but combined with cuts that yield 3D results without adhesive.

Hsu sees the potential for this device to both stimulate the interdisciplinary field of photonic engineering, sustainable energy science, and to provide better personalized thermoregulation to prevent temperature-related illnesses, such as seizures. strokes, heat-related illnesses, colds and flu.

Hsu already has a solid record of achievement in energy consumption for heating and cooling, publishing its findings extensively. He has developed a device using custom nanomaterials with specific properties that is able to switch between heating and cooling modes to manage solar energy for both radiative heating and cooling of a building.

His most recent work on textiles uses physics rather than electronics to open vents in a hybrid nylon/silver nanomaterial to let heat escape when a person begins to sweat, then close to trap the heat. once it is dry.

He also designed comfortable textiles for clothing with specific properties to reduce heat radiation from wearers so they could tolerate higher air conditioning settings. His approach departs from existing textiles, which wick moisture away from the body as a method of cooling. Hear him describe his work in nanoscale materials science in the “World’s Coolest T-Shirt” episode of Duke Engineering’s Rate of Change Podcast and in this episode of the Science Podcast.

Hsu joined the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University in 2019. He earned a PhD in Materials Science from Stanford University in 2016.

(C) Duke University

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